Concert Review: The Jezabels, Dry The River @ KOKO, London, England

NME has an NME Awards Tour, as well as a series of NME Awards Shows. Not sure of the difference (and frankly, too lazy to care), but either way, PeteHatesMusic was at one of the NME Awards Shows last night at KOKO in London, to see headliners The Jezabels, as well as Dry the River. Also on the bill were Kai Fish and Hey Sholay, who we unfortunately missed (I say unfortunately, as I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt).

Last year, The Jezabels had a career-defining!! interview with PeteHatesMusic, which you can read and re-read right here. After 3 EPs, the Jezabels released their debut album, Prisoner, in Australia last September, but it doesn’t come out until March 5 in the UK (they split the difference and it was out in November in North America). Hence, the Australian outfit playing a run of shows leading to the album’s release. Logical, yes. But why leave the Australian summer for the English winter? Fools!

Playing before the Jezabels were London’s Dry the River, hyped in the press as a Mumford & Sons of sorts. The 5-piece band are primarily an acoustic folk rock band from London, so those similarities are bang on. However, they are not as upbeat on their studio tracks, with softer vocals, and a violin instead of a banjo – but enough with needless comparisons. Like the Jezabels, the band are also releasing an album on March 5 (okay, another comparison), and it is their debut album, called Shallow Bed. Can we somehow spin this into a battle of the new albums, ala Blur and Oasis circa 1995/6?

First up were Dry the River, who played a half hour set. The band are like Good Charlotte – bare with me – with a tattooed and shaggy appearance that doesn’t fit the music you’d expect a band of that appearance to be playing (not that we judge a book by its cover).

Dry the River – The Chambers & The Valves

The band are talented and energetic, with slow building songs that often end in a final minute of harmonized vocals and general rock goodness. However, it is a well worn formula, and actually highlights that perhaps the first 80% of their songs aren’t playing to the band’s true strengths, as they can really rock and harmonize when they want to. The band have generally good melodies and good songs, and I’m interested in hearing how the studio album sounds.

Next up were headliners the Jezabels. Let me take the time to comment on an abnormal number of older women wearing fur coats in the crowd – I got to double digits (and I SUCK at counting) – what the hell was with that?

Anyway, their debut album, Prisoner, is a far different beast than the poppy 3 EPs that preceded it. The band elected for a more layered album sonically, as well as a few darker and slower songs, some of which don’t play to Hayley’s pop vocal strengths. That’s not to say Prisoner is bad – not at all – but it will likely just have a different set of fans appreciating it.

The band opened with the lead single from Prisoner, Endless Summer. After the song, lead singer Hayley Mary asked the crowd “How you going?”, an Australian phrase that makes little sense to a Canadian like me (but I’ve learned to embrace it from my Aussie friends). Hayley and the entire band were all decked out in black attire, with Hayley wearing elbow-length gloves.

Hayley’s vocals are very true to the studio version of the songs, meaning there’s no studio magic at play – her voice is that good. Hayley impressively and repeatedly hit the high notes at the end of the second song, A Little Piece.

The Jezabels, who consist of Heather Shannon on piano/keyboard, Nik Kaloper on drums and Samuel Lockwood on guitar (note there’s no proper bassist), then went on to play Nobody Nowhere, which Hayley noted the band had never played live before. You couldn’t tell, as the song went off without a hitch. Another song from Prisoner, City Girl, followed suit.

Next up was Mace Spray, which seemed a tad slow during the verses and could’ve benefited from the faster and louder dynamics that often happen during the high energy of concerts.

Before the next song, Hayley mentioned that occasionally the band writes a song about love, and this was one of them – they played Rosebud. Wait, I thought that was about a sled?

A couple of older songs followed next, which got the crowd moving. Easy to Love was first, and then came Sahara Mahala, which had the Aussies around me singing quite loudly. I’m not saying only Aussies were in the crowd, but it was like I was surrounded by the extras from a Crocodile Dundee movie wherever I turned. The beer fridge was stocked with cans of Fosters, too. All were needed were kangaroos for bouncers to check off all of the Aussie stereotypes.

A trio of songs from Prisoner were up next – Deep Wide Ocean, Trycolour, and Long Highway, which had a rocking ending, with Hayley flailing around to the music. Hayley’s movements typically match the tempo of the songs or the speed and volume of the lyrics. The faster and louder the song, the more animated she becomes. The rest of the band are generally anonymous visually, but provided driving rhythms throughout the night.

There have been minor critiques that of the all of the live energy of the Jezabels comes from one source – Hayley. This may be true, but when you look at a Canadian equivalent – Metric, who get their high energy from Emily Haines – one would find these criticisms a touch pointless, as you don’t need all 4 members jumping around like idiots to put on a great show.

Before the last song, Heather timidly pointed out that Prisoner is out on March 5, if we care. The band then launched into Hurt Me and the crowd lost their shit. That’s a good thing for you older readers. The band ducked off stage for less than a minute, and concluded their 13 song, 1 hour set with Dark Storm.

KOKO is a good sized venue for the Jezabels. The crowd reacted positively to the songs, and the sound filled the venue nicely, and enabled the Jezabels to basically own it. Once the non-Aussie part of the crowd get their hands on the album, I’m sure a bigger venue will be played the next time through town, and deservedly so.

PHM Rating for Dry the River: 7.0 out of 10
PHM Rating for The Jezabels: 8.0 out of 10

Setlist for The Jezabels @ KOKO, London, England – February 22, 2012

1 – Endless Summer
2 – A Little Piece
3 – Nobody Nowhere
4 – City Girl
5 – Mace Spray
6 – Rosebud
7 – Easy to Love
8 – Sahara Mahala
9 – Deep Wide Ocean
10 – Trycolour
11 – Long Highway
12 – Hurt Me

13 – Dark Storm

The Jezabels – Endless Summer

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4 Responses

  1. Molly says:

    Jezabels! Such a brilliant show. Loved it! 9/10!

  2. Emma says:

    Absolutely great review!! I would love to see Dry the River live, so I’m very jealous. I have to say I’ve heard samples of all the songs off Shallow Bed, and now can’t wait to hear the full version of them when the album comes out in April. They have an interactive video with all the samples. Definitely check it out, it’s a super cool concept!

  3. pete says:

    Hey Emma – cheers for the video, it IS super cool.

  1. 2012/05/08

    […] this year, PeteHatesMusic caught Dry the River opening for the Jezabels. They have been hyped as some sort of Mumford and Sons-esque band, but I only see fleeting moments […]